Small business SEO is probably the last thing on your mind, we get it.
You started a business to do what you love but somehow along the way you end up doing well… pretty much everything. You wear many hats – you are both the janitor and the CEO.
For your small business to succeed and you to actually start doing the things you love in the first place, you will also need to take on the role of a SEO or Search Engine Optimisation wizard.
But your main role is not in SEO, nor should it be. You have more important things to do.
This article is not intended to be the be-all end-all guide to SEO. SEO takes many years to master and there are already plenty of books and SEO blogs out there should you want to delve deeper.
What this article set out to do is to teach you the philosophy of small business seo. It highlights the fundamentals of good SEO and ideas on how to use it to beat your larger and more established competitors.
It is a guide intended for small business owners.
As many of you may guess, this article borrows on the principles of The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
A good summary can be found here.
The timeless principles of The Art of War are still relevant today as they were back in 500B.C and especially more so for small business SEO where you go up against larger, more established competitors.
What is Small Business SEO?
Truth be told, SEO cannot be classified into small business or large business. The techniques you used for both are identical in most cases.
The difference lies in the approach and mentality of small business SEO and not in its execution.
Much like guerilla warfare, small business SEO is about outwitting your larger competitors with unconventional methods.
Because let’s face it, you do not have the resources and money to go up against the established titans in your industry.
You need to know when to pick your fights, when to ask for help and when to walk away.
Before we delve deeper into these methods let’s first highlight what constitutes good SEO.
What is Good SEO
Good SEO is something that the search engine approves of and are not designed to artificially temper with your rankings.
For Google, a good SEO plan adheres to Google Webmaster’s Guide.
While there are hundreds of metrics that rank SEO and some of them can get extremely technical, we will highlight the major 3 aspects that decide your ranking position on search engines. These are what every good SEO comprise of and they are:
Technical SEO deals with the well, technical aspects of SEO. They often work in the background and you cannot see them. Things like page load speed, mobile responsiveness and on-page SEO are the fundamentals in good technical SEO.
Good technical on-page SEO will have ideal meta descriptions and accurate titles that describes your website and its pages.
Good content is synonymous with good website ranking. Good content are unique and original but most importantly answers a searcher’s query.
Links are to SEO what referrals and recommendations are in the real world. Internals links makes pages easier to track and index. Inbound links are powerful recommendations and outbound links lets search engines such as Google and Bing know what your page is about.
The essence of Small Business SEO should be a combination of online, offline and social activities and marketing methods along with the above.
Small Business SEO: The Fundamentals
Starting Small with Laser Precision
You do not want to compete head on with larger companies with huge marketing budgets. Instead of optimizing for ‘car sales’ for example, you may want to go for more specific terms such as ‘Blue Honda Civic”. This term won’t get as many enquiries as ‘car sales’ but that means you avoid competing with large companies that do.
Long tail Keywords
The above is an example of long tail keywords or key phrases with 3 or more words.
There are advantages to this:
- Easier to rank for
- More tailored to client intent so sale rates are higher
- People who search for long tail keywords are often in the ‘ready to buy’ stage rather than researching stage
Get Hyper Local
Your biggest competitors with their limitless budget will have already ranked for terms in the biggest cities across the country. Their shotgun approach also means you will be up against fierce competition.
Their aggressive marketing in big cities means they may leave the smaller cities wide open for you to exploit.
Instead of doing SEO for ‘plumbers in Sydney’ which everyone must be doing with 43,600,000 search results, why not instead go for ‘plumbers in north sydney’ ? The competition is cut by more than half but you are still getting plenty of business through it.
Leverage Google My Business
Since Google’s algorithm update on prioritising local businesses, Google My Business has played an essential role in getting your brand out there for local search.
This means if you type in ‘plumbers’ in the search bar and you live in Chatswood then Google will show the plumbers with a Chatswood address first.
This is the working of Google My Business. If you’re a local operator then Google My Business is essential.
It’s important to list NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) on the footer of your website if you’re a local business to give signal to Google that you do indeed service that area.
Local Directories and News Outlets
While directories no longer provide the same amount of link juice as they once did, they still relevant for local businesses. As mentioned above, Google gives preferential treatment to search results if the searcher is within that local area.
Local directories and newspapers give good indicators to Google that your business services that local area.
For a more technical tutorial, please visit our guide on Local SEO.
Identify a Gap In Your Competitor’s Armor
No company is strong in every area of marketing and SEO. For SEO, there are literally thousands of keywords that you can target, by targeting every keyword, you are spreading yourself too thin.
Identifying a gap in your competitor’s SEO efforts can be used to great effect. Consider the following to differentiate yourself:
Targeting different location
Targeting different keywords
Use different sources of link building
Target different audience
Different interval of content marketing, method of distribution etc…
Using Mobility as a Weapon and Never Sit Still
Mobility is one of the few advantages you have as a small business so make the most use of it.
For small business SEO, this means taking advantage of trends via Google trends to reach your target audience before your larger, slower competitors.
Mobility also means constantly implementing new ideas, testing and tweaking your campaigns to get the best result.
For example, if advertising on Yellowpages not working out (when did it ever work?), you need to try another method.
Google Ads not working for you, how about SEO.
Facebook not working, how about Instagram or LinkedIn? You get the point.
Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless. Fail fast. Succeed faster.
Use Free Resources
There are plenty of free resources that can help you with small business SEO.
As most of digital marketing practices essentially leads back to SEO, there are more than enough options for you promote your products and services.
Below are some free resources you can tap into:
There are forums for just about every topic under the sun. While, many forums have do not follow links back to your website, you can still use them to gain a periodic boost to your website visits and SEO.
Before you start your shameless promotions, please make sure you first read the forum’s posting rules and guidelines. Most forum members dislike promotions from outsiders so you may have to become a regular first before you can begin to promote your own brand or services.
Ideally, you want all efforts to link back to your company blog on your company website. This is because of the control you have on your own website.
Periodically publish amazing content on your company blog will get you return visitors and add opportunity for more keywords to be found on search engines as well as backlinks.
If you don’t have a website yet – What are you waiting for? A website is the fundamental of SEO and is an absolute necessity.
Does your business have other vendors that operate within your niche but are not direct competitors?
These businesses provide the perfect opportunity to cross promote your services and build backlinks va guest blogging.
Do More With Less
Time and again digital marketing has proven to provide a more positive return on investment than traditional marketing.
In our previous article what’s the most effective digital marketing strategy for a business, we highlight that there is no single strategy that works for every business but there are some digital marketing strategies that work better than others depending on your industry.
Small business SEO is a form of digital marketing strategy that has one of the highest ROI. It provides long-term lead generation and sales growth for any business.
Know Your Limits – When to Hire Outside Help
We get that as a small business owner you are often short on time and capital.
A part of successful small business SEO is recognising your limitations whether they be time, money or expertise. You cannot do everything yourself.
That’s reason enough to bring onboard an SEO expert.
Is SEO expensive? Yes, good SEO can be expensive but only if don’t recognise the value it generates.
Small Business SEO is an Investment not an Expense.
A lot of small businesses fail because they do not recognise what’s an expense and what’s an investment.
Expense is an activity or product that will drain your resources.
Investments, however, are something that you can expect to get a return on in the future.
Many small business owners think marketing is expensive. It is not expensive if you can get a positive return on investment from it.
If spending 1 million dollars on marketing you will get 3 million in return, is the 1 million dollars expensive?
Obviously, don’t go spending 1 million dollars unless you first gauge the effective of the campaign on a smaller scale first!
Without SEO, it will be an uphill battle to generate enough leads and businesses in the online world.
Read our how to find the best SEO agency guide to partner up with a good local SEO agency.
Small Business SEO is hard due to limited resources. By gaining an understanding of our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities we set ourselves up in the best possible position to succeed.
Small business SEO is about recognising you cannot compete head on with your biggest competitors.
It is using non traditional methods to target your visitors where your biggest competitors do not target. These include targeting different locations, keywords, and execution of SEO campaigns.
It is using mobility in your favour to capitalise on the latest trends and never settling.
It is using free resources such as forums and social media and leveraging digital marketing as a medium to do more with ess.
It is also about recognising your limitations to know when to bring in outside help.